Ground beef and food safety: More than a daily grind

Ground beef and food safety: More than a daily grind

Sysco Brand ground beef and beef products are backed by the highest food safety/quality requirements and the strictest oversight in the industry, frequently exceeding government standards. All Sysco Brand food products—from ground beef to fresh produce—have strict specifications for flavor, appearance, nutrition, packaging, handling, shelf life and food safety to make sure our products live up to these exacting standards.

Both the government and Sysco require that every supplier conduct a thorough hazard analysis and implement proven preventative measures, such as a HACCP plan (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), to address any food safety concerns, including pathogens, allergens, physical contaminants and chemicals. But Sysco goes beyond this requirement by mandating science-based, industry-leading practices are implemented as part of all ground beef supplier’s food safety preventive controls.

Food-borne illness caused by common pathogens is something Sysco takes very seriously as well, especially in the production and handling of high-risk items. Although Sysco has programs in place to identify and minimize risk from potentially harmful bacteria, two of the most common in the production of ground meat products are Escherichia coli (E.coli) and Salmonella.

E.coli and Salmonella contamination are most likely to occur during the slaughter, processing, handling and storage of ground products. Raw ground meat production facilities are required by Sysco to address these hazards directly, and must have programs in place to mitigate the potential for outgrowth at all steps of processing and handling in their facility. Sysco also requires that grinder facilities only purchase raw material components from approved suppliers. Each shipment of raw materials must be accompanied by a Certificate of Analysis with negative test results for pathogenic E. coli using test methods considered “robust” by USDA.

To ensure ongoing compliance and to evaluate supplier efficacy, Sysco requires that all suppliers of raw ground product pass a third-party food safety/sanitation/GMP audit, including a specific grinder addendum for E. coli control. To qualify, all audits must be conducted by a Sysco-approved auditing company.

Foreign material contamination can be a problem in ground beef. Recognizing this physical hazard risk, Sysco requires suppliers to have bone/cartilage separation systems on grinding equipment, along with operational metal detection systems to reduce the risk for bone or metal fragments in ground beef.

Additionally, Sysco’s ground beef suppliers must have traceability systems in place to track all raw materials used in raw ground beef. In event of a recall, suppliers must also have a Sysco-approved Recall and Traceability Program in place to effectively remove potentially harmful products from the marketplace.

These rigid controls and system checks are not just for our suppliers; Sysco has also completed this same risk assessment within our own distribution systems—from procurement through delivery—to better control food safety risks in every segment of the supply chain.

Because at Sysco, our reputation is only as good as the products we sell.